A “bike chain” that creates better traffic flow will also appear on Hengelo in Amersfoort in mid-November. In Hengelo’s version, special signs encourage cyclists to form groups. Then smart cameras provide green light faster. Cyclists responded positively to the survey.
There are smart cameras on the bike path in Hengelo that detect passing cyclists at an early stage. Once three or more cyclists arrive in a group, the traffic light turns green more quickly, resulting in better traffic flow. This also means that traffic lights turn red less often for cars. The site is a busy traffic intersection due to the A1 and IKEA, among others.
We announced via signs that if you form a group, you will be given priority. “This is also done effectively,” says Wim Dijkstra, strategic mobility advisor in the Overijssel district. “The result is that a much better flow of cyclists is created. Parking time increases slightly, as the light does not have to turn green for each cyclist individually.
The pilot project in Hengelo, developed by Sweco and funded by the province of Overijssel, began in May 2022 and remains active. Evaluations continued for four months, showed positive results and were a reason for further trials.
Amersfoort municipality will now also roll out a ‘bike chain’. It is not yet known what form it will take. “We are currently preparing a pilot for the bicycle chain at the Holkerweg – Ringweg Koppel intersection,” the municipality said. “If these preparations go well, we expect the trial to begin in mid-November.”
Shorter waiting time
Ronald Jurna from consultancy Moveco participated in the pilot project in Hengelo on behalf of Overijssel and discussed the results in more detail. A survey of participating cyclists found that 65 percent would like to see the bike chain implemented throughout the city. 40% had experience getting to their destination faster and 40% were also willing to move with others for better flow. More objectively, the waiting time for cyclists was found to be much shorter, while the impact on car traffic remains limited.
Not suitable everywhere
“For Hengelo we will decide whether it can become a permanent solution that can be scaled up in several places,” Dijkstra adds. He says the bike chain is not suitable for all locations with intersections. ‘In certain locations you want to give priority to both cyclists and cars. Then a crossing with separate height differences is often more appropriate. In other locations, priority for one type of road user is more appropriate.’
According to Dijkstra, the trend can be seen here. “My position is that the closer you are to the downtown core, the more priority you have for cyclists. Policy in urban environments aims to create more car-free inner cities, which also benefits the climate. That means you have to make cycling more important in the downtown core.” The city does not encourage you to ride in the car.
“So it’s a good idea to give cyclists more green space in those places that have detection cameras like in this project. So it’s not necessary to form groups of cyclists. After all, cars can wait a little longer there,” says Dijkstra. “.
“The bike chain can be designed in different ways,” Jurna adds. “The camera can also focus on leaving a single cyclist in the foreground rather than groups.
A different approach has been taken in Zwolle, where bike couriers from the parcel delivery company use an app that gives them the green light more quickly. “This makes them more competitive compared to pickup trucks.” “This is more environmentally friendly for the city,” Jurna says.
BITS and Interreg project
The bike chain is one of thirty smart cycling pilot projects implemented in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the United Kingdom in recent years in the context of bicycle intelligent transportation systems, together called BITS. BITS is an inter-regional project supported by the North Sea Program of the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union.
The North Sea countries exchange knowledge and best practices on smart cycling: cycling using data and transport systems. Half of the program costs were covered by a subsidy from Interreg North Sea. Performs RVO Interreg Commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Basic infrastructure comes first
“Mobility is more than just infrastructure,” says Dijkstra. “Just as cars are becoming increasingly more technical and smarter, there are also possibilities for bicycles. With intelligent transportation systems you can achieve better flow. That’s why we started the BITS project.
Cycling data is therefore becoming more important for cycling policy, such as investing in new cycle paths and bike sheds, making intersections safer or improving traffic flow. “At the same time, we also note that there are few standards,” Jorna adds. “Collecting data via sensors in cars is already intuitive, but this is still new in the world of cycling. Therefore, there is still a need for standards to accelerate the deployment of transportation systems.” Smart bike transport.
Jurna provides a number of examples of other successful ITS projects outside of Hengelo. “Cameras were hung above the intersection to analyze the number of near misses that occurred. The data analysis provided insight into the biggest risks and made the intersection safer.
In England, bicycles were loaned to less fortunate people who did not own a GPS-enabled bicycle. This indicates how many times they biked, to what destination, where they stopped for a long time, etc. “This is useful in developing bike sheds, but it is also useful in detecting obstacles,” Jurna says.
However, ITS are not the holy grail, warns the mobility consultant. “It’s not a cure-all.” First you need basic infrastructure. You can then use ITS as a way to improve your cycling movement. It’s a digital layer on top of other things.
There is now a sequel to BITS: Megabit. This runs from May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2026.